KA WORDCAST Passages Lesson 12, Part ONE

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Passages: Lesson 2 Part One Reading Passage 

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KA WORDCAST Passages: Lesson 12 Part ONE


A Wizard of Earthsea, the short novel from which the passages for Lessons 12 and 13 are taken, is an acknowledged classic of science fiction and fantasy.  It was written by Ursula K. Le Guin, who was born in 1929 and is an esteemed American poet, novelist, essayist, and short-story writer.  A Wizard of Earthsea is the first in a series of five books that follow the adventures of a young wizard named Ged, also known as Sparrowhawk.  The series is often compared to J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings and C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia.  (And if you’re a fan of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books, you’ll love Le Guin’s series.)  A Wizard of Earthsea is what is known in literature as a “bildungsroman.”  This is a German word for a story where the young hero overcomes many difficulties and challenges to become a better, stronger person and to achieve his or her true destiny.  In the reading for this lesson, Ged takes his first big step in this growing-up process.  He starts taking classes in wizardry at a school called Roke Knoll.

The reading passage is jam-packed with some really great words, which we will examine over the next two Wordcasts.  In Passages Lesson 12: Part ONE, we’ll look at eleven verbs that will come in handy in your own writing.

To listen to a recording of this passage, please tune in to the KA Voicecast website.



 … or his boat and another collided though they had the whole bay to NAVIGATE in …

NAVIGATE has several subtly different meanings.  In the sentence above, it means to travel over or sail along a certain course, especially in a boat on some sort of waterway.

The small fishing boat NAVIGATED the busy Hong Kong harbor, sharing it with ocean-going freighters and tankers and Star ferries.

With water levels controlled by damming, many larger vessels can now NAVIGATE far upstream on India’s Krishna River. 

I could never NAVIGATE the tortuous streets of Tokyo without my Global Positioning System.

NAVIGATE also means to plan and direct the course of a vessel or vehicle.

For thousands of years, sailors NAVIGATED by the stars, either by using Polaris or Orion’s Belt as a guide.

Bats NAVIGATE by means of a sonar-like system called echolocation.

If you don’t have a compass handy, you can use a traditional analog clock face to NAVIGATE, provided you know where north and south are.

NAVIGATE is also used when a passenger of an automobile gives directions to the driver using a map or other means.  Synonyms for this usage include steer, pilot, guide, and direct.

You look pretty tired.  How about if I drive now and you NAVIGATE?

NAVIGATE can also be used more figuratively to mean to find the right way to deal with a difficult situation.

Senior fraternity brothers serve as mentors, helping new initiates NAVIGATE their freshman year at university.

And lastly, in computing, NAVIGATE means to find your way around the Internet or a specific website.

For those of you who would like to tune in to any of our previously aired podcasts, the KA Voicecast website is user friendly and easy to NAVIGATE.

NAVIGATION is the noun form for all of the above verbs and their uses.

If it hadn’t been for Jason, who is a whiz at mountainous terrain NAVIGATION, we would have never found our way back to camp. 

These days, I usually get where I’m going, and right on time, using the NAVIGATION app on my iPhone.

Freedom of NAVIGATION in the South China Sea is a contentious issue, especially between the U.S. and China over the right of U.S. naval vessels to enter China’s exclusive economic zone. 

A NAVIGATOR is a person who NAVIGATES the course of a ship, airplane, or other vehicle, usually by using a map or other instrument. Synonyms include helmsman, co-pilot, and guide.

NAVIGATORS on ships can’t always rely on instruments, and thus need to have a basic understanding of celestial NAVIGATION that they can fall back on in emergencies.

When Diane learned that her new boyfriend Mark flew supplies to isolated villages in Alaska for a living, she learned to fly and became his co-pilot and NAVIGATOR.

A NAVIGATOR can also refer to the equipment or instruments used to NAVIGATE.

Before you head out, always pull up a map of the route on your car’s NAVIGATOR to make sure that there are no roadwork disruptions along the way.

The adjective NAVIGATIONAL is most commonly used as a modifier, as in:

My wife’s sense of direction and NAVIGATIONAL skills are far better than mine, so I usually let her drive.

Another adjective, NAVIGABLE, refers to a body of water that can be sailed by ships or boats, that is suitable for transportation, or that is easy to get around in or on.

The Panama Canal is not NAVIGABLE by today’s giant oil tankers, which are forced to sail all the way around South America.

Forecasts for heavy rains failed to deter a small flotilla of boats whose crews aim to show that the River Arun is NAVIGABLE as far as Pallingham Quay.  

Admittedly, the filing procedures are complicated and tiresome, but NAVIGABLE with a little patience and determination.



Ged’s pride would not be slighted or CONDESCENDED to.

CONDESCEND is a verb that means to show feelings of superiority towards others, or to behave as though you are more important or more intelligent.   Synonyms include patronize, talk down to, and look down one’s nose at.

When giving a lecture in front of a group of young students, be careful not to CONDESCEND to your audience, as they will surely shut you out if they feel they are being patronized. 

CONDESCEND also means to act in a haughty way, as if what is being asked of you is below your social or professional position.

Karen would never CONDESCEND to help out in the kitchen.  She thinks she’s too good for such “domestic” work.

We’d been waiting outside the CEO’s office for nearly an hour before he CONDESCENDED to see us.

CONDESCENSION is a noun that refers to an attitude or act of superiority.

The counselor at the family planning clinic gave me some great advice without a trace of criticism or CONDESCENSION. 

I detected a note of CONDESCENSION in Professor Sullivan’s voice as she spoke to me about how to improve my latest term paper essay. 

The adjective CONDESCENDING means having or showing a feeling of superiority.  Synonyms include patronizing, snobbish, disdainful, smug, and conceited.

If, during a session, you sense that your therapist is not paying attention to you or is being CONDESCENDING, find another therapist.

Apart from that CONDESCENDING tone of hers, Mrs. Lyle is a good principal who truly cares about the pupils in her school.

Our reverend is usually quite amicable, but he sometimes displays a CONDESCENDING attitude towards people he suspects are non-believers.


Nadia despises being CONDESCENDINGLY patted on the head.  Just because she is in a wheelchair, it doesn’t mean she is a child! 

George often spoke CONDESCENDINGLY to his younger girlfriend, who resented it but for some reason silently put up with it.



“How is the changing-spell locked, and made to LAST?” 

In the sentence above, LAST is a verb that means to continue to exist or work well.

We’ve had some unusually warm weather these past few days, but don’t expect this Indian summer to LAST.  A cold front is moving in from the north.

My son Jona has really become enthusiastic about practicing the piano these days.  I pay a fortune for his lessons, so I hope this new fervor LASTS.

LAST has several other uses as well.  For one, it means to continue for a particular length of time.

Thank goodness this morning’s meeting only LASTED a few minutes.  I’ve got a million emails I need to answer by noon.

How long do you reckon tonight’s school concert will LAST?

Even though each football match only LASTS about an hour, when it’s as cold and miserable as it was today, standing outside to watch my son’s team play feels like an eternity.

LAST also means to survive something or to manage to stay in the same situation despite difficulties. Synonyms include endure, stand up, hold on, persevere, and bear up.

I was stunned when I arrived on the ward and the doctor told me that my grandfather probably wouldn’t LAST out the night. 

Brenda is so negative about her work and critical of her colleagues that if she’s not careful, she won’t LAST in the job another week.

LAST also is used to talk about some commodity’s capacity to continue to be enough or suffice.

Have we got enough milk to LAST the weekend?

These new models are selling like hotcakes, so order now while supplies LAST.

The trapped climbers rationed their meager food supplies to make them LAST until the rescuers showed up.

Here’s one of life’s little mysteries: Why does a bottle of shampoo seem to LAST far longer than a bottle of conditioner?

LASTING is an adjective related to the verb LAST.  It means continuing to exist or to have a long-term effect on something. Synonyms include enduring, long-lived, unending, and unceasing.

I was only there for a year, but I formed several LASTING friendships during my time in Japan.

Politicians, bankers, and economists have warned of LASTING global economic consequences unless an agreement to raise the debt ceiling can be reached.

LAST is also an adjective with various uses.  First of all, LAST means happening or coming after everything: in other words, it means final.

We managed to catch the LAST train back from Shibuya, but the buses had stopped running so we had to take a taxi from the station to our house.

Mrs. Eagan lives with her grown son and five cats in the LAST bungalow on the right.

As expected, my sister Hannah was the LAST person to arrive for my daughter’s christening.

LAST also means most recent.

We spent two weeks at a Greek island resort LAST summer, so we won’t be able to afford to take another holiday again anytime soon.

The LAST time I saw my best friend’s daughter Tana, she was only four years old.

Although she is most famous for her Bridget Jones’s Diary series of books, author Helen Fielding’s LAST novel was a thriller entitled Olivia Joules and the Overactive Imagination.

LAST also means the final one or part of something.

I can’t believe you ate the LAST slice of cake.  That was supposed to go in your father’s lunch box.

I wouldn’t go to that mechanic again if he were the LAST one on Earth!

Finally, LAST is used to emphasize that someone or something is the least likely or least suitable for some job, position, or relationship.

The LAST thing I need is another work assignment.   I’ve got all I can handle right now.

Shawna is the least organized person I known and therefore the LAST person I would trust to manage the petty cash.

LASTLY is the adverb form. It is usually used as a sentence modifier to introduce the final point that you want to make or to indicate the final step in a process that you are explaining.

LASTLY, I would like to thank my family for always supporting me.

LASTLY, sprinkle the frosting with the chopped walnuts and serve.

As a noun, LAST refers to the person or thing that comes or happens after all other things.

Suzanne as usual was the LAST to learn her lines for the play.

“I’m sorry I’m late,” Candace said as she walked into the meeting room. “Oh, dear.  I’m not the LAST, am I?”

When I’m eating a plate of sushi, I always save the fatty tuna roll for LAST.

LAST also refers to the only remaining part or item of something.

The LAST of our homegrown tomatoes are ripening in the airing cupboard.

My husband and I shared the LAST of my late grandmother’s Christmas fruitcake on his birthday in July. 

There are a number of very useful idioms related to LAST.  Here are just a few examples.

We’ve arrived AT LAST (=finally)!

AT LONG LAST (=Finally), the book I ordered from Amazon arrived.

That was the LAST (=the final time) I ever SAW OF JANIE.

THE LAST (=The latest information) I HEARD, Arthur was working on a fishing boat in Alaska.

Cameron Willingham, wrongly convicted of murdering his three children, protested his innocence TO THE LAST (=until he died).

There are also a number of handy word pairs using LAST.  Let’s look at a few examples.

Congressional leaders held a midnight meeting in a LAST-DITCH (=desperate) effort to keep the country from defaulting.

We booked a LAST-MINUTE (=just before time ran out) all-inclusive holiday to Majorca.

My LAST NAME (=surname, family name) is Bond.  James Bond.

“The kitchen will be closing in 30 minutes, so please place your LAST (=final) ORDERS as soon as possible.”

“LAST (=Final) CALL for passengers on BA flight 182 to Boston.  Please proceed to gate 10D.”

For the LAST TIME (=Because I’ve asked you many times already), will you please stop interrupting me?




… or his boat and another COLLIDED though they had the whole bay to navigate in … 

COLLIDE means to crash into something or someone. Synonyms include hit, strike, and plow into.

A truck carrying a load of bricks COLLIDED with a passenger vehicle on Highway 10 early this morning.  Fortunately, both drivers escaped unharmed thanks to seat belts and air bags.

Two stunt planes COLLIDED mid-air at the Atsugi Air Show Sunday afternoon. 

An earthquake occurs when two tectonic plates COLLIDE, forcing one under the other and sending out seismic waves. 

Jenna sustained a mild concussion when she stumbled down the stairs and her head COLLIDED with the banister.

COLLIDE is also used metaphorically to mean to come into conflict or opposition. Synonyms for this usage include conflict, clash, differ, and to be at odds (with).

Liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans most often COLLIDE over policy decisions related to government social-welfare spending.

Parents who want biology textbooks to include “intelligent design” as an alternative to the Theory of Evolution verbally COLLIDED with science teachers at a PTA meeting last night.

A COLLISION is an accident in which two vehicles or people or boats or airplanes crash into each other. Synonyms include crash, accident, smash-up, and wreck.

I had to slam on my brakes and swerve sharply to the right to avoid a COLLISION with the car in front of me.

Jet broke his arm in a COLLISION with the opposing team’s goalkeeper.

Astronomers at the Gran Telescopio in the Canary Islands are keeping their eye on what they believe is a COLLISION between two comets deep in space.

COLLISION also refers to a strong disagreement between opposing ideas, interests, or opinions. Synonyms include conflict, clash, and incompatibility.

The COLLISION between Israeli and Palestinian interests in the region began in the nineteenth century when many of Europe Jews migrated to the Holy Land to escape persecution.

The idiomatic phrase ON A COLLISION COURSE is used literally to mean to be about to COLLIDE with something or someone.

NASA has reactivated a retired telescope to search for potentially dangerous asteroids ON A COLLISION COURSE with Earth.

More figuratively, it means to be in a situation that is most certain to cause disagreement.

The two partners were ON A COLLISION COURSE over how to invest the company’s windfall profits.

As emerging nations develop and use more and more fossil fuels to power their cars, we will find ourselves ON A COLLISION COURSE with environmental disaster. 



Ged would not forget this, nor, it seemed, would Jasper, who always spoke to him with a polite voice and a MOCKING smile.

In the sentence above, MOCKING is an adjective, but let’s first look at the verb to MOCK.  MOCK means to poke fun at someone or something in an unkind way, especially by copying what they say or do.  Synonyms include make fun of, tease, deride, imitate, and impersonate.

Jaydon, stop MOCKING your sister!  Can’t you see how miserable you’re making her?

“Well, if you ask me, Jim is just plain rude,” Amika said to her friend.  “He’s always MOCKING my Japanese accent.”

MOCK also means to not show respect for something by making it seem laughable, unreal, impossible, irrelevant, or ineffectual.

The national standardized tests MOCK the intelligence of many of our highly capable pupils. 

Although curling has been around for hundreds of years, in 1988, when it was first proposed as an Olympic sport, many people MOCKED it for its simplicity.

Despite the existence of credible witnesses who have given detailed accounts of their experience, most people continue to MOCK and dismiss UFO sightings.

MOCK also means to mimic or reproduce closely, as in:

John doesn’t need a duck call because he can MOCK the sound a duck makes with his own voice.

This artificial flavoring satisfactorily MOCKS the flavor of real vanilla.

MOCK and MOCKING are two adjective forms.  MOCK is used as a modifier to mean not real (that is, imitation) or not sincere, as in:

As a final touch, I wore a MOCK fur stole when I dressed up as the Queen for our school play.

During the Great Depression, when fresh apples were hard to come by, Ritz Crackers promoted a recipe for “MOCK Apple Pie” using its crackers as a substitute for the real thing.

MOCK can also mean simulated, as in:

At this time of year, high school students in Japan are busy taking MOCK entrance exams for their preferred universities.

The Department of Motor Vehicles website offers a MOCK driving-theory test that you can use to practice for the actual test.  

Paintball is MOCK warfare that gives participants the chance to pretend they are real soldiers.

The adjective MOCKING, as used in the sentence from the passage, describes someone who makes fun of someone or something in a cruel way.  Synonyms include contemptuous, snide, and condescending.

Jamie raised his hand as if he was about to strike the boy, but stopped short and laughed in a MOCKING way. 

MOCKINGLY is the adverb form of MOCKING.

Stephanie MOCKINGLY repeated her teacher’s sentence in class and earned herself a detention for being disruptive.

MOCKERY (also MOCK) is a noun that refers to comments or actions intended to make someone or something appear ridiculous. Synonyms include ridicule and scorn.

Ellen’s vulgar fashion sense opens her up to MOCKERY by the other moms in the playground—behind her back, of course.

A MOCKERY is also a failed action or decision.  Synonyms include travesty, charade, and farce.

The trial was a MOCKERY of justice, based wholly on circumstantial evidence, and with a jury that was obviously prejudiced against the defendant from the outset.

TO MAKE A MOCKERY OF SOMETHING is an idiom that means to make something seem ridiculous or useless.

Many people feel that naming a former military leader this year’s recipient has MADE A MOCKERY of the Nobel Peace Prize.



Whole bright days of spring and early summer they spent out in Roke Bay in light carboats, practicing STEERING by word, and stilling waves, and speaking to the world’s wind, and raising up the magewind.

STEER means to guide the direction of a boat, car, or other form of transportation. Synonyms include control, maneuver, and pilot.

When I was a little girl, my dad sometimes sat me on his lap in the car and let me STEER.

The flying squirrel uses both its membrane and tail to STEER as it glides from one treetop to another.

Francis grabbed her husband by the elbow and STEERED him away from the $5,000, big-screen TV he was eyeing in Costco. 

STEER also means to move in a particular direction.

As the ferry STEERED towards the dock, the captain noticed a small dinghy with four people in it blocking the way, and he quickly reversed his engines.

Lastly, STEER means to take control of a situation and influence the way it develops.  Synonyms include direct, lead, and conduct.

Our hostess tactfully STEERED the conversation away from partisan politics and talked about a romantic comedy she had recently seen. 

Doctors in the UK are reluctant to STEER patients towards the use of steroid asthma inhalers and only prescribe them for extreme cases. 

STEER CLEAR OF is an idiom that means to avoid someone or something because it may cause problems.

You’ll want to STEER CLEAR of the downtown area at this time of day.  The traffic will be a nightmare.

If I were you, I’d STEER CLEAR of Mom right now.  She’s in a really bad mood.

Most candidates STEER CLEAR of mentioning abortion and same-sex marriage in their speeches because it can mean political suicide.

STEERING is a noun that refers to the machinery in a vehicle that is used to STEER it.

I learned to drive in a manual-shift car that had no power STEERING and no ABS brakes.

A STEERING COLUMN or WHEEL is the “handle” that a driver uses to control the direction in which a vehicle moves.

When I moved from the U.S. to Japan, it took me a while to get used to driving a car with the STEERING WHEEL on the right side. 

A STEERING COMMITTEE is a group of people in a government or organization that sets agendas and schedules or directs activities.

Singapore’s Speaker of Parliament said last week that the country should establish a STEERING COMMITTEE to deal with mental-health-related issues.

By the way, in the past, STEERAGE was a part of a ship where passengers with the cheapest tickets used to travel.

Many of the third-class STEERAGE passengers aboard the Titanic left Britain hoping to find a new life in the United States. 

And FYI, a STEER is a young ox raised for beef.

The vegetarian author’s latest children’s book is about a doomed STEER who organizes a rebellion at the slaughterhouse.



… or all three boys in his boat went swimming unexpectedly as the boat was SWAMPED by a huge, unintended wave. 

In the sentence above, SWAMP is a verb that means to fill or cover something with a lot of water.  Synonyms include flood, inundate, deluge, soak, and saturate.

Global warming threatens to SWAMP several small island nations in the South Pacific. 

Thousands of commuters were stranded when heavy rains SWAMPED the tracks of the main train lines heading into the city.

SWAMP can also mean to overload with work, responsibility, demands, or requests.  Synonyms include overwhelm, flood, and inundate.

“I’m afraid I’m going to be late for dinner tonight,” Lisa said to her husband, “I’m SWAMPED here at the office.”

If your website gets more than half a million hits in a day, it could SWAMP the server.

After the interview with a notorious white supremacist aired on a talk show last week, the network was SWAMPED with angry letters, e-mails, and telephone calls.

As a noun, SWAMP refers to an area of low-lying, uncultivated land where there is a lot of standing water. Synonyms include marsh, bog, quagmire, slough, and bayou.

SWAMPS are a breeding ground for malaria, especially in areas near the Equator.

The open window let in a cool breeze and the sound of evening frogs croaking in the nearby SWAMP. 

Florida’s Everglades are sprawling SWAMPS that are the habitat for hundreds of creatures both above and below the water’s surface.

SWAMPY is an adjective that describes something that is inundated with water.

Many species of fish can be found in SWAMPY mangrove forests and nowhere else in the world.

The SWAMPY terrain and heavy artillery fire forced the invading troops to pull back and retreat behind the border.

SWAMP FEVER is a serious disease that affects horses, though malaria was once called SWAMP FEVER as well.

More than a million British horse owners were on alert last year after two horses tested positive for SWAMP FEVER.

SWAMP FEVER, or malaria, is thought to have spread worldwide with the army of Alexander the Great around 2700 B.C.



“Now if I make a pebble into a diamond”—and he did so with a word and FLICK of his wrist—“what must I do to make the diamond remain diamond?”

In the sentence above, FLICK is used as a noun, but FLICK is also a verb with a number of subtly different meanings.  First of all, FLICK means to propel something with a sudden movement of the fingers and thumb.

Martin took a quick bite from his sandwich, FLICKED the crumbs off his lapel, and headed up to the boardroom for a meeting. 

“I don’t mind if you smoke in here, but please don’t FLICK your ashes on the floor,” the hostess told her guests.

Whenever she caught one of us FLICKING a spit wad at another student, our homeroom teacher would send the culprit straight to the principal’s office.

FLICK also means to hit something lightly with a quick movement of your finger and thumb.

The coach came up behind Marty, FLICKED him on the back of the head, and told him to pay attention or get out of the locker room.

FLICK can also mean to make a sudden sharp movement with something like a stick or small whip.

As he and his ride raced toward the finish line, the jockey furiously FLICKED his whip back and forth on his horse’s neck and shoulders.

The cow lazily FLICKED its tail at the large flies buzzing around it.

FLICK also refers to moving a part of the body (like the head or hand) quickly up and down or to the side.

Caroline FLICKED back her hair, pouted her lips, and put her hands on her hips.  “I’m ready,” she told the photographer.

Every customer in the restaurant FLICKED his head around to see who had dropped the load of dishes.

FLICK also means to turn something electrical on or off, usually with a switch.  Synonyms include click and switch.

One thing we can all do to save electricity is to FLICK off the light whenever we leave a room.

Evan settled himself down on the sofa with a six-pack of beer and a family-size bag of barbecue potato chips. He then picked up the remote, smiled, and FLICKED on his huge, flat-screen TV.  It was time for another Sunday of one NFL game after another. 

Finally, FLICK can also be used like this:

Regina FLICKED Ted a flirtatious, surreptitious smile from across the room.

To FLICK THROUGH is a phrasal verb with a couple of convenient uses.  Firstly, it means to turn the pages of a book or magazine or other paper quickly without really reading it.

I’ve only had time to FLICK THROUGH your screenplay, but from what I’ve seen, you’ve got the format down pat.

Taryn FLICKED THROUGH a four-month old magazine in the doctor’s office while she waited for the receptionist to call her name.

FLICK THROUGH also means to keep changing the channels on a television (or the stations on a car radio) quickly to see what is on.

I was FLICKING through the channels on TV last night when I came across a documentary about the cultural similarities between the Incas and the ancient Egyptians.

As I was FLICKING THROUGH the stations hoping to find some music I liked, my car swerved into the next lane and cut another driver off.

Now let’s move on to the noun form of FLICK.  In the sentence from today’s reading passage, FLICK refers to a small, sudden movement of something. Synonyms include jerk, snap, whisk, and flip.

Heather motioned Carl to move out of the way with a subtle, but authoritative FLICK of her wrist.

With this new and improved bread maker, you can have fresh baked bread every morning with a simple FLICK of the switch.

A FLICK is also a quick look through the pages of a book, photo album, or other reading material.

“Here, have a FLICK through this hairstyles catalogue while you wait,” the hairstylist said to her client.

A quick FLICK through Brown’s new novel told me it wasn’t something I wanted to read.

Lastly, a FLICK is a slang or informal word for a movie or film.

How about if we go out for a bite to eat and a FLICK tonight?

There’s nothing but horror and sci-fi FLICKS on in theaters this week. 

A related verb, FLICKER, means to move with small, quick movements. Synonyms include flutter, tremble, twitch, and quiver. (This is where the slang word FLICK for movie comes from because the images in old-time movies FLICKERED on the screen.)

I lay next to my daughter, watching her eyelids FLICKER as she napped peacefully on the sofa.

When speaking about a light or flame, FLICKER means to flash on and off.  Synonyms include glimmer, blink, and sparkle.

As the storm raged outside, the lights in the house FLICKERED for a moment and then went out.

No one answered the door, but I knew someone was home because I could see the TV FLICKERING through the front window.

FLICKER also refers to an expression, thought, or emotion that lasts a very short time.

A small, mischievous smile FLICKERED across Eric’s face as his teacher, Mr. Gorman, sat down on the Whoopie Cushion.

As I was riding my bike along the Sumida River, a brilliant idea FLICKERED across my mind, but by the time I got home, I had forgotten what it was.

FLICKER is also a noun that means (1) a small, quick movement, (2) a light that shines in an unsteady way, or (3) a feeling, expression, or a thought that lasts for only a very short time.

Jimmy’s right arm is still paralyzed after his stroke, but he has regained a FLICKER of motion in his right foot, and the prognosis for better mobility is very good. 

The FLICKER of the candle from inside the Jack-o-Lantern gave the room an eerie glow. 

Ortiz doubled in the bottom of the ninth, giving his teammates and the fans a FLICKER of hope for a come-from-behind win as the team’s leading hitter stepped up to the plate. 

The adjective FLICKERING describes things that move quickly back and forth, as in:

There was a swarm of FLICKERING lights on the hill as hundreds of skiers and snowboarders gracefully coasted down the slope for the annual New Year’s Eve Torchlight Ski-Run.



These are very intricate skills, and frequently Ged’s head got WHACKED by the swinging boom as the boat jibbed under a wind suddenly blowing backwards …

WHACK is an informal way of saying to hit something, or, as in the sentence above, to be hit by something very hard.  Synonyms include strike and smack.

Gary spent nearly three hours on Saturday afternoon WHACKING away at the weeds that had grown out of control in our backyard over the summer.

“Don’t just WHACK the ball,” the golf pro instructed.  “I know you can hit it a mile, but you need to improve your accuracy.”

Not about to give up her Gucci handbag, Natalie WHACKED her mugger assailant over the head with her umbrella, snatched the bag back out of his hands, and sprinted off down the street. 

And if you’ve watched some gangster movies or read some detective novels, you know that WHACK can also mean to murder someone.

Have you heard?  Big Eddie McDougall and his moll Ginger Jackson were WHACKED last night as they were coming out of a gin joint on Grant Street.

The noun WHACK is also used informally to mean the act of hitting something hard, or the sound that is made when something is WHACKED.

If you’re having trouble getting ketchup out of the bottle, just turn it upside down and give it a good WHACK—that always does the trick. 

Every morning, my grandfather waits to hear the WHACK of the newspaper landing on the porch and then waves through the front window at the paperboy.

Something that is OUT OF WHACK is no longer correct or working properly.  It can also mean not agreeing with or not the same as something else.

I thought my laptop computer was OUT OF WHACK, but Lester told me that it was just “tired,” and that all I needed to do was to shut it down once and turn it back on.  And he was right.

The subtlest changes in climate can throw entire ecosystems OUT OF WHACK.

TAKE A WHACK AT means to try.

Could you TAKE A WHACK AT this Sudoku puzzle?  I’m not getting anywhere with it. 

I’m usually not very good at putting Ikea furniture together, but let me TAKE A WHACK AT that chair for you.  It doesn’t look that complicated.

There are some very informal words related to WHACK, including the adjectives WHACKED, WHACKO, and WHACKY.  WHACKED can mean very tired, drunk, or stoned on drugs.  WHACKO means crazy or insane.  (It is also used as a noun= “Stay away from Horace!  He’s a WHACKO!”) WHACKY means funny or amusing in a strange way.  Look at these examples.

I’m going straight to bed after dinner.  I’m absolutely WHACKED after that long drive back from Scotland.

I tried to do Mr. Robertson next door a favor by picking up the litter from his front lawn, but he went WHACKO on me and told me to mind my own business.

Some of those programs on the Disney Channel are quite funny, not to mention a little WHACKY. 

In British slang, WHACKING can mean very large, as in:

We had to get contractors out to the house when a tree fell and left a WHACKING hole in our roof.  



So, BOLSTERING up his pride, Ged set all his strong will on the work they gave him, the lessons and crafts and histories and skills taught by the grey-cloaked Masters of Roke.

BOLSTER is a verb that means to improve, make stronger, or increase in quantity.  Synonyms include support, strengthen, reinforce, and prop up.

The latest Government Accounting Office statistics BOLSTER the claim that the housing market has shown some improvement in the past twelve months.

In Amis’s classic novel Lucky Jim, the main character BOLSTERS his confidence before a big speech by drinking whiskey, only to get drunk and make an utter fool of himself.

Economists maintain that the weaker yen has helped to BOLSTER Japan’s sagging economy.

The new store manager pledged to remodel the shop floor, improve customer service, and BOLSTER inventory.



Whole bright days of spring and early summer they spent out in Roke Bay in light carboats, practicing steering by word, and STILLING waves, and speaking to the world’s wind, and raising up the magewind.

In the sentence above, STILLING is the progressive form of the verb to STILL, which means to make something calm or quiet.  Synonyms include settle, abate, die down, and subside.

The wind STILLED, and Jack and Laura reluctantly gave up trying to fly their kites.

Justine crouched down low and spoke quietly to STILL the child, who hadn’t stopped wailing since his mother dropped him off at the nursery. 

STILL is also used as an adjective to mean without wind, waves, or noise. Synonyms include calm, quiet, flat, serene, tranquil, and hushed.

I often reminisce about those STILL summer days when my friends and I would sit languidly on the shores of Green Lake, soaking up the sun’s rays, and chatting about trivial things. 

Skipping stones works best when the surface of the lake or river is STILL.

When speaking of a drink, STILL means without bubbles or gas.

May I please have a bottle of STILL water?

STILL is also used as an adverb to mean without moving.  Synonyms include motionless, quiet, and stationary.

“Lana, keep STILL while I try to brush these tangles out of your hair!” her mother shouted. 

Little Joey sat very STILL and watched the entire movie without making a peep.

The adverb STILL also has a variety of other uses.  First of all, STILL means up to and including the present or the time mentioned.

I sent the passport application away nearly six weeks ago, and I’m STILL waiting for it.

Charles ate a super-sized Big Mac meal for lunch, but he says he’s STILL hungry.

Do you STILL have that book I lent you? 

I’m not sure if there’s STILL time to register for the marathon online.   I vaguely remember reading that the deadline was last Tuesday.  

STILL also describes something (an act or change) that will or may happen in the future.  Synonyms include someday, eventually, and at a future time

The president may STILL do something to redeem himself and save his legacy. 

We could STILL win the championship if the Raiders lose the next two games.

STILL can also be used as a sentence modifier in the same way as nevertheless or all the same.

Heidi’s chances of being awarded the grant are slim.  STILL, she hasn’t given up hope.

And finally, STILL is used with comparatives for emphasis in a way similar to even. Look at the following examples.

Print out, or better STILL (=even better), draw some pictures or diagrams to include in your report. 

It was so cold yesterday, and today is colder STILL (=even colder).  I suppose its time we accept that winter is upon us. 

As a noun, STILL (as well as its variant form STILLNESS) refers to deep silence and calm.  Synonyms include tranquility, peace, quiet, and serenity.

We crept through the old castle in the STILL of the night, hoping to catch a glimpse of the legendary spirit that supposedly haunts its halls.

Visit Arizona in the winter and experience the starry night sky and the tranquil STILLNESS of the desert, away from the constant noise and bright lights of the big city. 

What appealed to me most about Loch Lomond was the STILLNESS of the water and its pristine beauty.

STILL also refers to a photograph from a scene of a movie or video.

How much do you reckon a signed STILL from the original Star Wars movie will fetch on eBay these days?

The police blew up and studied the STILLS from the security footage to see if they could identify the jewel thief. 

Totally unrelated but “still” good to know is that STILL also refers to a piece of equipment used for making strong alcoholic drinks.  DISTILL is a related verb that means to make a strong alcoholic drink using a STILL.

According to master DISTILLERS, the shape of the STILLS is one of the variables that affect the final flavor of whiskey.

And finally, here are a couple of useful phrases and expressions using STILL.  A STILL LIFE is a painting or photograph of common household objects (fruits, vegetables, food, dishes, vases, candles, and so on).

Sherry was never any good at STILL LIFES and preferred to paint landscapes. 

STILLBORN has both a literal (dead at birth) and figurative (failed plan, project, plot) meaning.

After she gave birth to a STILLBORN baby, Alyssa was told to wait a few months before trying to have another child.

Like so many of Petra’s plans, the business she and her friend had talked about starting up proved to be just another STILLBORN dream. 


Tune in next week for nine more words from Passages: Lesson 12 Part TWO